Prominent local Liberal Democrat councillors and activists have written an open letter criticising Simon Hughes MP for abstaining in a recent parliamentary vote on same sex marriage.
The MP recently published an article on the Lib Dem Voice website setting out his views on same-sex marriage in the wake of the controversial Commons vote. He told party activists: "First, if I have hurt or offended you or made you angry, I am truly sorry. I know how much some of you feel hurt – or really let down or both. I am really, really feeling that. Which is why I want to say a few other things so that some misunderstandings can hopefully be dealt with and some hurt can be healed."
He added: "I believe that all creation is of God and loved equally by God: female and male and those who believe themselves to be neither, and people of all races and ethnicity and ability and sexuality and of all faiths and none.
"I also believe that the partnership of one man and one woman in lifelong commitment – which came to be known as marriage – is at the heart of the created order, and especially blessed by God. And that the law of the land should recognise this traditional view of marriage."
He went on to call for a separation between marriages conducted by religious groups and those recognised in law: "... I believe that heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and non-gendered people should all be able to have the choice of an identical sort of civil partnership or of a civil marriage or union.
"This should be separate from Christian or other faith marriages. But the way of reconciling the two is for us first to separate completely in law the recognition of relationships by the state from the marriages conducted by churches, other faith groups – and humanists, but then also to allow those faith communities which wish to recognise gay and heterosexual marriages equally in their ceremonies the ability to do so, and with identical consequences in the law of the land."
An open letter signed by 18 local party members – including 11 councillors – was published this week on Lib Dem Voice.
Signatories include Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Liberal Democrats and former head of the Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP's constituency office.
In the letter they write: "It was ... with a mixture of anger, dismay and regret that we discovered you had abstained on the third reading, despite same sex marriage being party policy and knowing the strong feelings in favour of this measure of many of your members, activists and constituents.
"We understand your decision to abstain was based on your own personal Christian interpretation of marriage. It is not our intention or position to challenge your beliefs, but we do believe you have put these views ahead of equality, and in doing so have caused deep upset and failed to represent many of your strongest supporters.
"Simon, you have been an excellent member of parliament for over 30 years for the people of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and have been tireless in the time, work and energy that you have devoted to representing your constituents.
"We do not believe your record as an MP should be judged on this vote alone but we wish to put it on record that as members, officers and councillors we profoundly disagree with your decision not to vote for equal marriage and reaffirm our strong support for equality for all."